Kenny Vaccaro Is the Top Safety Available
APR 21, 2013 11:25a ET
40 time: 4.61 Bench Press: 15 Reps
Born: February 15, 1991 (Age 22)
Over the months and even years, we have spent plenty of time discussing the Cowboys lack of quality safety play. In fact, the latest essay I have written on the topic is here as we looked at the revolving door at the position since Darren Woodson exited stage left after the 2003 season. It is a position of great need on a franchise that has seemingly felt the effects of not having it, and yet never try to invest heavily into it since the snake bite of Roy Williams was felt. In fact, their latest idea, Will Allen comes over after playing in full snaps in just 6 of Pittsburgh's 16 games last year. He was a 4th safety there who received plenty of time with Troy Polumalu's injuries, after backup Ryan Mundy disappointed. Once Polumalu returned, Allen went back to the bench with just 16 snaps in the final month of the season. But, as we head into draft week, Allen joins Barry Church and Matt Johnson as the only safeties on the radar with Danny McCray destined to simply play special teams.
So, despite my repeated strong desire to draft "big" at #18, there are a few sub-300 pound players that should be considered as a real impact pick. And, the top of that list is what multiple scouts have described to me as the "best safety in this draft without question", Kenny Vaccaro.
Vaccaro is a very confident player which has been described as both his greatest strength and at times, his greatest weakness. He is known in the evaluation community as a guy who plays at top speed - faster than his workout times - regardless of his opponent and the size of the game. He want to seek and destroy anything in his path, but that can sometimes work against a player at his position.
The position is called "safety" and sometimes players that play it might not understand why. It is, of course, to clean up all messes that the offense creates and to be the last line of defense in an effort to keep bad plays from becoming touchdowns. Safety requires a player who will not fall for the tricks and traps that the opposition wishes to set, and Vaccaro's speed of judgement sometimes gets him in trouble in this regard. Play action fakes and misdirection sometimes require caution and certainty, and if you find Vaccaro's bad tape, you often see that he eats the cheese in the mouse trap. That has a familiar ending if veteran NFL QBs are ready to make you pay as a young safety.
Otherwise, there is plenty of things to love. He has all of the physical traits you want. At Texas, he played in many different scenarios and didn't look out of place at any of them. There are safeties in the draft that look better as pure centerfield prospects (Cyprien), but when you want a safety who can do just about everything you need - from blitzing off the edge, to covering man to man in the slot, to run support, to splash plays - the consensus seems to build for Vaccaro.
Not only that, but he seems to have leadership qualities, with the biggest one that he leads by example as he sticks his head into any scrum even when he is out-weighed. He is physical and looking for splash moments in a game which is something that has been missing in Dallas for years and years.
He will over-run plays when he charges downfield in run support and dive in the wrong gap periodically. But, at times he appeared to be part of a Texas defense that wasn't the most tightly coached bunch in football history. When projecting a player, you often have to guess where your coaching staff can get him in a year or two. And that is why you start with their physical tools and their love of the game/intangibles and work from there. And in those categories, Vaccaro appears to fit the part of a game-changing safety.
Don't expect Earl Thomas when you draft this safety from Texas, because they are absolutely different players altogether - with Thomas being better in my opinion. But, in a year where there is a feeling that there are potentially 6-8 quality safeties, there are very few that argue that this guy isn't at the top of the list.
Here are some youtube cut-ups for your own personal eye-ball test. Find the RT who wears #4 and watch:
Vs Oregon State
Vs Oklahoma State
Vs West Virginia (note all of the slot matchups with Tavon Austin)
The Case For Dallas Taking Kenny Vaccaro at #18: There is no question that Vaccaro - like Mark Barron in 2012 or Earl Thomas in 2010 - would be an absolute position of major upgrade on a Cowboys defense that hasn't had an above average safety in a long time. Now, to add one that can blitz, play near the line, or in the back field all together just makes his value even better. It would be difficult to argue that in today's NFL, that the Cowboys should stop neglecting a very important part of their defense.
The Case Against Dallas Taking Kenny Vaccaro at #18: The case against begins and ends with the fact that they need to take advantage of a draft where there are significant playmakers at the line of scrimmage available on both sides of the ball. When the offensive line and defensive line could also get a player who might instantly be one of their better players, it is difficult to argue that safety is a bigger concern. The Cowboys lack for impact size and in this draft there are much better options in those categories than another small impact player like Dez Bryant or Morris Claiborne. There is nothing wrong with Vaccaro, but he would have to be a guaranteed star for me to suggest they ignore their "big" deficiencies.
I have not seen the clear elite play that scouts do. I also question whether the Cowboys would be able to develop his instincts to find that next level like some teams that always seem to get the most out of their kids. He is clearly intriguing, but I am not sure I could pull the trigger given the state of this team up front - unless they have plans to add a veteran or two to their lines via free agency. If it were my decision, I take the bigs and then circle back for a safety a bit later given the depth at the position.
So far, of our 7 profiles, I would list them in this order:
1. Chance Warmack - Report Here
2. Jonathan Cooper - Report Here
3. Sheldon Richardson - Report Here
4. Sylvester Williams - Report Here
5. Sharrif Floyd - Report Here
6. Kenny Vaccaro
7. DJ Fluker - Report Here